Ige: Extension of legislative session for rail debate a 'waste of time'

Ige: Extension of legislative session for rail debate a 'waste of time'
Updated: May. 3, 2017 at 8:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige rejected calls Wednesday to extend the Legislative session to break the deadlock over funding Honolulu's embattled rail project.

"I think that it would be a waste of time. You know the Legislature, the House and Senate, are too divided at this point in time. I don't think it would be productive," Ige said in a press conference.

Earlier in the day, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, along with other neighbor island mayors, sent a letter to the governor urging him to extend the legislative session in order to give House and Senate leaders a chance to reach a deal on a funding agreement.

An extended session would give state leaders additional time to figure out a funding agreement that would cover a shortfall of over $1 billion for the project.

The House wants to increase the hotel room tax from 9.25 percent to 10.25 percent for ten years, but the Senate voted to extend the half a percent general excise tax surcharge for ten years.

Ige said he's ruling out a special session for now, unless lawmakers have a deal.

Some state leaders said they agree with the governor's decision.

"I think the message is the governor delivered is that the House and Senate are clearly divided and I think he's right. And both chambers may need to take a pause and a break," said state Sen. Kaialii Kahele, whose district includes Hilo.

Caldwell went before the City Council Wednesday morning and talked about extending the Legislative session and why he doesn't like using the hotel room tax to fund the rail.

"We could cut public safety, police fire, lifeguards and the impact becomes dramatic to the community," Caldwell said.

He said the House bill will divert $67 million dollars from the city treasury to the rail system, which could force the city to increase property taxes or cut essential services.

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